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On the subject of the best way to anneal, perhaps Charles
Lewton-Brain would chip in his not inconsiderable two cents. He
demonstrated annealing in a workshop I took some years ago and made
the process clearer to me than anyone else ever had.

As for the following:

I could be wrong, but if one quenches gold, or at least its alloys,
it also becomes brittle. 

Not true. Gold alloys do soften when quenched. Incidentally, it is
my understanding that non-ferrous metals should be quenched in water �
that quenching in pickle counteracts the softening process. I have
also been told, by a jeweler who studied in Germany, that quenching in
alcohol makes the metal even softer than quenching in water. Does
anyone know if there’s any basis to this claim?


I can not find the I am looking for. I read some where
that alcohol, cools the metal slower than water by about 100 deg a
sec. I can attest that items quench slower in alcohol than water.
I usually quence in my borax solution and then make sure it is cool
by a quick dip in water. many a times I thousht my alcohol level
was full and when i pulled the item out it was still hot, thus
little gold ring marks on your fingers ans a swear word released

Rick in KC

Hello Beth,

I will try to keep this simple but this is how the annealing works. At
annealing temperature, you heat up the material above the
recristalistaion temperature. You can imagine that at this
temperature the bindings between the gold crystals are getting lose
and are splitting up. The alloys are now creeping al over and between
the highly moving molecules. not knowing were to settle. If you let
this cool down slowly than the crystals are starting to grow again and
the alloys are creeping towards the crystal edges. The melting point
is often lower. ( a bit like a coffee stain which is drying out, you
see the dark colour on the edge of the stain. In the middle it is
lighter) The big crystals give a more brittle alloy, also the alloys
on the edges work like wedges between the crystals. This effect
strengthen the gold alloy. If you cool the alloy very fast down then
alloys do not get the time to creep to the crystal edges. also the
crystals will be smaller. The alloy is now more ductile and softer.
This to the better and homogenous structure. The wedges are than very
small and will cause less internal force when you deform the alloy.

Using alcohol gives a milder cooling down than water. For most gold
alloys this is better. To fast freezing of the structure can cause
internal tension differences between the crystals, due to the
microscopic crack between the crystals. The alloy will be than more

However to make it difficult there are also alloys who give, with a
slowly cooling, the best soft and ductile material. If this is cooled
down to fast. you get a brittle alloy. There are in this alloy a lot
of crystal starters I do not know the English word but this should
do). imagine them as microscopic pollutions where the first crystal
will start. And if cooled down to fast there are to much disturbed
cristals, and again high internal forces, and a brittle alloy.

I hope this will explain some.

Martin Niemeijer


Hello Beth, It is definitely true that quenching white gold in
alcohol will soften it more than quenching it in water or pickle. It
is also true that this process is very dangerous. Red hot metal will
not ignite the alcohol but a small spark certainly will. If you anneal
the metal on a charcoal block, be sure a bit of glowing charcoal does
not accompany the metal into the alcohol because you will have an
immediate fire. Be careful.


Tom and Beth,

Quenching nickel white golds in alcohol seems to be the answer to not
only softer metal but, more importantly, crack and fissure free

I never quench theses alloys when they are red however. Always allow
them to bench cool to “black heat” before quenching. Not only is this
safer, but results in metal that has not been thermally shocked.

I have a friend who is an amazing goldsmith and he quenches all of
his golds in alcohol. Not only does it cut down on oxides and yield a
better product, but you can move right to the mill w/ out worrying
about rust.

Andy Cooperman

( Quenching nickel white golds in alcohol seems to be the answer to not
only softer metal but, more importantly, crack and fissure free)

I take it that this alcohol is denatured??? Or is it isopropol?

Thomas Blair

The purpose of quenching white and red golds in alcohol instead of
water based solutions is to avoid stress cracks from too much thermal
shock. The alcohol quench avoids cracking problems. It does NOT give
you a softer annealed state.

As to fire danger, yes, alcohol burns. But I’d guess there is hardly
a goldsmith out there who has not, on one or two occasions,
accidentally set his container of boric acid and alcohol, on fire.
It’s not explosive or anything. It just burns. You put the lid on the
container when this happens, and that’s the end of the fire. Simple.
Just don’t panic…

what can get really fun, though, is if you drop something very hot
like a heavy piece of white gold, say an ingot, into your alcohol, to
quench it, and suceed instead, of also cracking your glass container,
thus spilling the alcohol all down in your bench pan, where it now
catches fire…

yup. THAT’s fun, all right…


 The purpose of quenching white and red golds in alcohol instead of
water based solutions is to avoid stress cracks from too much
thermal shock.  The alcohol quench avoids cracking problems.  It
does NOT give you a softer annealed state. 

Peter, are there ways of annealing silver that also avoid stress
cracks (seems that I’ve been getting a lot of those lately . . .)

Thanks in ADVANCE!

I am a disabled vet and learning metal work as a hobby. I can’t go
to classes, so I am learning from books and online. It’s going well
except for one very critical area. It’s hard to learn to use a torch
well from a book! Right now the issue is my annealing of sterling. It
is inconsistent. I am using an propane/oxygen setup with a smith
little torch. Books I have say ‘dull red’ but not temperature or how
long to hold at temperature or how much to cool prior to quenching in
water. I’d like to know I am using good technique.


Turn the lights off and get your work area as dark as possible. Heat
evenly and when the piece is dull red, stop heating, move it to a
cooler place until it is no longer glowing red, quench and you should
be good to go. As a suggestion, you might try a bushier flame. You
can buy casting tips from Paige tools for your torch. They make great
tips for the Little Torch and Meco. I do most of my annealing with an
EZ Torch. It is a bushier flame and not as hot as the propane/O2
torch that you use to solder. You can also use a sharpie to indicate
that you have reached annealing temperature. When the sharpie mark
disappears, stop heating. Good luck. Rob

Hello Mary,

Kudos to you for forging ahead and trying to learn on your own.
AnnealingSterling is sorta’ hard to describe verbally/in a book. You
will ‘get it’ faster if you can see it, then do it with a coach. Have
you looked on UTube? There are several videos demonstrating all kinds
of jewelry techniques.

Is it possible that you could contact a local jeweler who has a
bench instore, with the idea of watching the process? Or, have that
person come to you and demonstrate? I suspect if there is an
Orchidian near, s/he would be of assistance. While you should never
just post your address online - security, don’tcha know - perhaps
providing your city of residence might be enough toenable contact.
Just a thought.

Judy in Kansas, where it is droughty AGAIN. Hate using treated city
water to irrigate, but really don’t have a choice if my transplants
are going to thrive.

Hi Mary,

Annealing is a must know must have skill. And probably best learned
in the dark. And unless you do it in an oven where temps can be
reached and held with some accuracy the torch is the tool for you.

Since I work a lot with 10 GA. Sterling wire I’ll describe my
process. The first thing I do if I am ordering any metal from a
supplier like Rio or Hoover and Strong I order it dead soft. That
way I don’t have to anneal it to immediately work it on the bench. I
don’t burn any gas. And if there is an add on charge I have never
seen it.

If I have to anneal further I use a clean fire brick and a medium
flame on my Presto lite torch #3 tip. To me a medium flame is a
solid flame but a quiet flame. If the flame is strong but noisy, an
angry sound, it is way to hot. You’ll melt the outside of the wire
before you bring the inside of the metal up to annealing temp.

Books tell to use a Bushy or Brushy flame, I don’t know what that
is. I tend to go by sound.

Acetylene is pretty hot and there is a learning curve. Add oxygen to
the mix and even propane has some serious heat. I often use just a
basic propane canister torch with a trigger igniter at the bench
just for annealing.

Set your flame. Turn off the lights and steadily play the flame
along your work. A dull read is the best way to describe the color
you are looking for. I try to get to the color of a "Fireball"
cinnamon candy before I stop and let the color fade away in the dark
before I quench it in pickle. The color could be hotter but that’s
the color I am accustom to and I think once you achieve a color you
can create consistently you are most of the way there. Consistency
is as important as is color is as an indicator of reaching a working
condition in the metal. The whole piece has to be the same color so
the metal is normalized to the same degree over its length.
Otherwise you will have spots of greater softness than others on you
work piece.

If you have a copy of The Complete Metal Smith read Tim’s
description of annealing.

This is one of those places that only experience and time on task
will get you there.

Have fun.
Don Meixner.

There is one important factor left out of these posts. Time! Simply
heating the metal to dull red (or whatever one calls it,) that temp
must be held for a specific time to allow the grains to grow evenly
and to the same size. Too long u get grains too long, too short and u
get uneven growth. In either condition the metal well not soften
adequately andvin some cases may crack. Another thing. do not pot the
metal directly into the quench. Wait 10 to 20 secs. Too quick a
quench will stress it causing cracks or, if rolling poor reduction.
Recommend holding the metal at annealing temp 900 to 1k deg for one
minute for small pieces (pendant size) or slightly longer for larger
(bracelet etc).

Mary, Google “annealing silver” and there will be lots of
on how to do it, including the use of Sharpie marks.

Good luck!
Judy Bjorkman

Hi Mary,

The temperature for annealing silver is: 1200F. I am not decided
about the quenching as I hear both opinions that quenching straight
away would possibly shock the silver. On the other hand I have heard
that when quenching, the metal needs to be immersed evenly so that
the whole piece is quenched simultaneously.

It is not always easy to dim the lights but this would enable you to
see an even dull red and/or pinkish glow. I make sure the entire
piece has reached this colour and that it pretty much stays as I
move the flame up and down the silver, heating it evenly. There’s no
point having just one end dull red and the rest still grey/black. It
has to be even. You don’t need to hold this for any particular time
but it is crucial to make sure the whole piece shows the coloration
and this is achieved by moving the flame across the piece. So take
your time with this and ensure you have an even colour all the way
across the metal.

Another tip is to mark your silver with a sharpie and when that
disappears the metal is annealed. I am not 100% sure about this
however because sometimes, particularly on larger pieces, the colour
doesn’t always show a dull red.

So I kind of use my intuition and a bit of both of the above!

I hope this helps.

See this link for Riogrande’s advice:

Watch these too:

I hope this helps.
Emma Tallack

a pc of metal. Mark the metal with 3 lines on the metal. Heat the
lines until they are gone. Count to 1001,1002,1003. This will bring
you to the perfect annealing temperature or just a tad under.

Andy “The Tool Guy” Kroungold
Stuller Inc.

Emma- it is very important to quench the whole piece at once.
Especially do not hang onto the tongs as you are immersing the metal
you are annealing.

I’ve seen stress fractures in the exact shape of the tongs left on a
large sheet of silver after a quench.

I prefer to anneal in a darkish room and use a large brushy flame. I
let the metal cool a little bit before quenching. I always release
the tongs and drop the metal in the water. After so many years I just
feel how much heat is coming off the metal to know when it is time to
quench. According to James Binnion in his wonderful book Jewelry
Metals the timing of a quench is much more important in casting
silver rather than direct fabrication. Oddly I can also tell if a
piece is annealed just by the feel of it in my hands or tongs. It has
a dead dull feel to it that is very different from the feel of a
sheet of work hardened metal.

Have fun and make lots of jewelry.

Jo Haemer